Chinese battery producers, barely taking a breath after winning a three-year-long infringement accusation case in the U.S. market, have joined hands in tackling troubles on cadmium battery exports to the EU market.
Chinese battery producers and industry experts met here in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province to deliberate on measures to face the challenge from the EU's late revision on cadmium batteries, which requires a further reduction of the cadmium content in portable and rechargeable batteries from 0.025 percent to 0.002 percent.
"The new directive raises the requirement ten times, which would augment the production cost a great deal," said Liu Xu, a senior technical manager with the Tiger Head Battery Co., whose annual exports tops 3.7 billion batteries.
The company was the chief respondent to the preliminary report made by the U.S. International Trade Commission in 2004, which held that Chinese battery enterprises "constitute an infringement" against two American native battery enterprises, Energizer Holding Group and EVEREADY.
"Our experience was to use mechanisms in the World Trade Organization (WTO) in tackling trade barriers. Meanwhile, Chinese producers should quickly adjust their own production technology and the material structure to comply with the market changes," said Liu.
The Chinese WTO/TBT National Notification Authority and Enquiry Center has accepted the battery producers' application to carry out research on WTO rules, foreign technical regulations and assessment procedures to assist the firms in breaking the technical barrier in trade (TBT).
A WTO member can raise its notion on new technical regulations proposed by another member country in 60 days.
Zeng Guoqing, senior engineer with the China Association of Battery Industry, said that in the past, Chinese firms were slow to understand new technical directives in foreign countries. It was often not until the goods were obstructed at foreign customs that Chinese exporters became aware of new requirements.
"More and more Chinese exporters are resorting to the WTO mechanism in countering technical and green barriers in international trade now," said Zeng.
With two thirds of its annual battery output for exports, China turned out 30 billion units of batteries in 2005. The soaring exports have placed the product on top of the categories facing foreign trade barriers, said Zeng.
In responding to the American accusation, seven battery enterprises in Chinese mainland, including Shuanglu, Nanfu, Baowang, Tiger Head, Changhong, Sante and Zhenglong, appeared in the list of defendants. The backbone enterprises of mercury-free batteries in China account for 50 percent of the total domestic output. The companies witnessed a drop in exports or even cancellation of orders from its long-term customers in the American market because of the U.S. investigation.
Wu Junjie, general manager of the Zhongyin Battery Import & Export Company, China's largest battery producer, reminded domestic battery enterprises that western nations are likely to enforce new environmental protection standards for electronic products, including batteries, and require further reduction of the content of heavy metals this year.
The result would be that the content of materials essential for batteries, such as mercury, lead and cadmium, will be rigidly restricted, Wu said.